Consider the following some of the most insider information one can obtain on the subject of traveling in Bolivia. This information will not be found in any guide books new or old. Any persons reading this should take careful note if their plans include a stop in Bolivia.
1. No matter what, something will get stolen, robbed, pick pocketed, or lost in the laundry while in Bolivia. This is an absolute guarantee. To avoid these mishaps I have a few suggestions: either take only the clothes on your back, (but don’t be surprised if they manage to steal even these) or carry a time-lock steel safe to keep your belongings in, or take two of everything. This includes things like the aforementioned safe.
2. Your first stop in every city should be the tourist police, or, in many cases, some perfectly fine police station that refuses to help you and sends you on a wild goose chase to find the proper station. Once you do finally arrive at one of these extremely modern technological wonders of a facility, check your belongings, something was certainly stolen in the process of getting to the station and you should have no problem reporting this to the police. Make sure you have at least 5 hours as they will have to speak to every one in the station and make 467 printouts before finally inserting the paper the correct way into the printer and handing you the all important police report so that you can report the theft to the insurance you should have purchased before departing the safe zone, aka the United States.
3. You will get food poisoning. Even if you only eat freeze dried ice cream that you stocked up on in the gift shop at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum before departing, you will get sick. The air in Bolivia seems to deposit stomach-crushing bacteria on all food once it is exposed.
4. Regarding #3, purchase three doses of every antibiotic on the shelves of Walgreens before departing. However, don’t expect miracles – you will still destroy at least 67 toilets no matter how long your stay in Bolivia.
5. Bring a journal labeled either: “Why don’t they?”, “They should”, or “I don’t understand why they don’t.” You will find blaringly obvious money-making business plans that should exist, confusing business practices, and a whole lot of people trying to make money doing the exact same thing as everyone else on that same corner or town. This journal should be at least 1000 pages long and should be accompanied by various writing instruments as it will be the main outlet to vent your frustrations with the disappointingly poor tourist infrastructure in Bolivia. For instance, why does everyone sell the exact same tours? Maybe if you departed 30 minutes later, every stop wouldn’t be filled with the same 1300 white people you saw 30 minutes ago at the hot springs. And why isn’t their a hovercraft I can ride in the salt flats? And why is the only decent food in every town a pizza that isn’t even decent – to name a few entries.
6. If you receive paper money as change at the restaurant or travel agency that is cracked, torn, bent, wrinkled, stained, or simply doesn't look right. Walk straight to the nearest pile of trash (they don’t believe in trash cans) and chuck it. It is worthless. Even the poorest old lady selling gum in the street won’t accept your crappy bill unless it is shiny new and steam pressed.
7. Never expect anything from anyone – because that is exactly what you will get.
8. Look for the restaurants with children under the age of 10 working in them. They are the only ones where you can get your meal inside of 2 hours as their young souls have not yet been broken by working 12 hours each day at a restaurant.
9. If you’re from the USA, bring $100. We are lucky to be citizens of the only nation in this world that must open our wallets to enter this beautiful country ( see #1,2, the theft begins before touching foot on its land)
10. If you plan to visit during the month of February, purchase some sort of water- proof protection. As a tourist during Carnaval, you will get bruised, and beaten down by every man woman and child armed with water balloons, buckets of water, water guns, hoses, and any other device that can be used in some way shape or form to soak a tourist.
11. Know that in spite of all its imperfections, it is a beautiful country with some wonderful people and extremely dramatic landscapes that we will always remember.
12. If you don’t like Michael Bolton, bring ear plugs.